The Ocean line by Steinhart is a group of Rolex homage divers. There are various models that cover everything from GMT Masters, to Sea Dwellers to a particularly well-done Explorer II 1655 (the Steve McQueen model), but the bulk of the Ocean series are Submariner homages. Of the plethora of models Steinhart makes, the Ocean Vintage Military really stands out as a unique offering. This is because the OVM refers to a very specific, rare and interesting model of the Rolex Submariner, the ref. 5517 Mil-Sub. The 5517 was a military issue Submariner for the British Royal Navy in the early 70’s. As a non-civilian model, it had some special design details that make it truly unique in the Sub family. The two most noticeable differences are in the hands and bezel insert. The 5517 lacks the iconic Mercedes hour hand and instead has a broad and stubby sword hand, and the bezel insert has individual minute markers going all around the bezel, rather than just from 0-15. The other more subtle details are a capital T in a circle on the lower half of the dial, indicating that the watch contained Tritium, fixed lug bars for use with nylon straps and unique serial numbers.
Case: Stainless Steel
Movement: ETA 2824-2 25 Jewel Automatic
Lume: Old Rhadium (Super Luminova)
Lens: Domed Sapphire with Double Internal AR
Case Back: Screwdown
Strap: Stainless Steel Bracelet
Water Res.: 300m
Dimensions: 42mm, 50mm lug-to-lug
Lug Width: 22mm
Crown: 7mm screwdown
Warranty: 2 year
One could imagine given the popularity of vintage Submariners, original 5517’s are highly sought after, ultra-rare grails within the group. Considering around 1000 were ever issued, and they are legitimately parts of Naval and watch making history, it is not surprising that they go for around 100k at auction. This leaves most of us with little to no hope of ever owning one. Of course, there are a lot of watches that the same could be said for, the problem is that this one is really great looking. It takes the classic Bond-approved styling of the Submariner and tacks on some sportier and more aggressive features designed to maximize visibility for military usage. So, when the OVM first came to my attention I knew I had to have it. It takes the historical looks of the 5517, some contemporary features like a 42mm case, and combines them into a very affordable and damn great looking package. This is not to say that I don’t like the other Ocean watches, far from it, but being able wear a watch I’ll never own, in a matter of speaking, is very appealing to me.
That being said, the OVM is not just a beautifully executed and drop-dead gorgeous 5517 homage; it’s probably the best deal on a great watch you can get. At around $400 (price might fluctuate do to currency exchange rates) you are getting a terrifically built watch with an ETA 2824-2 25 jewel automatic movement, a domed sapphire crystal with double AR internal coating, a good quality oyster-style steel bracelet and generally superb finishing all around. Simply put, you wont be able to find a better deal on a Swiss made watch with these features. With that in mind, if you are looking to get a watch with an ETA movement now is the time to do it. It’s hard to say exactly what the future holds for brands like Steinhart with the ETA withdrawal, so considering the price tag and value here, I’d highly recommend one.
And now, on to the watch… The case of the OVM is stainless steel with a brushed finish on the top surface and polished sides. It measures 42mm without the crown, 50mm lug to lug and has 22mm lug width. This makes the OVM larger and bulkier than a true Sub, but it still sits in that very comfortable medium sized watch range. The classically shaped case has slab sides and a fairly flat profile. The most predominate formal feature of the case are the large triangular lugs and crown guard, but neither really draw to much attention. The case design is ultimately very functional and leaves the visual weight of the watch to the bezel and dial. The watch has a solid steel screw down case back with small lettering etched around its perimeter with various details. In the center of the case back is a large and amusing etching of either a Trojan (I think) soldier or more likely Neptune with a trident riding in a chariot pulled by a giant seahorse. The etching is just a silhouette, but it’s a nice touch.
The crown of the OVM is screw-down and measures 7mm by 4mm. The design is simple, but well executed with an easy to grasp texture over most of it. The Steinhart “S with a crown” logo it deeply etched in the side of the crown, which is a detail I appreciate. It threads very easily and has a secure feel to it; it also winds the movement with a very smooth sensation. All in all, it’s simply a well-made crown.
The bezel of the OVM is one of the most standout features of the watch. Not only is it a visual centerpiece of the design, it is very well made and features a high-quality mechanism. The style of the bezel, as I mentioned earlier, is directly from the 5517. The markings are unlumed metal, which gives them a nice sheen that matches with the case. The index is comprised of a triangle at 0/60 small marks for the individual minutes, larger rectangles for 5, 15, 25, 35, 45 and 55 and numerals for 10, 20, etc… The use of individual markers for every minute gives the bezel a busier look than the typical Sub styled bezel, but it isn’t overwhelming. In fact, the added markers increase the sportiness of the watch in a welcomed way. There is also an applied lume dot on the 0/60 triangle, which is the only glowing point on the bezel, and a general detail of Submariners I like a lot.
The edge of the bezel has a scalloped grip that is easy to grasp and stays true to the Mil-Sub look. Turning the bezel is a genuine pleasure that reassures me of this purchase every time I hear it click. The mechanism has substantial resistance to it and certainly wont budge without intentional force, but is not so stiff as to be impractical. And when you turn it, the snap of the bezel locking into place is genuinely sublime; it’s actually loud.
One of the great high-value details of the watch is the domed sapphire crystal that Steinhart has chosen. The shape of the crystal is very interesting; it has a subtle but noticeable dome to it and fairly substantial bevel at the outer edge. There is absolutely no distortion of the face across the main span of the dome no matter the viewing angle, and then a fairly pronounced distortion under the bevel. This however does not affect the legibility of the dial at all, as all of the critical markings are within the diameter of the dome. The sapphire also has an internal anti-reflective coating that aids in the legibility, and occasional throws off a nice blue reflection. Having a sapphire like this is an undeniably great feature, as it provides high-scratch and shatter resistance as well as great clarity. While a domed acrylic crystal, like that of the Helson Skin Diver, might have been more authentic to the 5517, the sapphire is great contemporary addition.
The dial of the 5517 is referred to as a “Maxi Dial”, which means that the geometric markings that define the Submariner dial are bolder than on other models. Steinhart stayed true to this and actually uses non-maxi dials on other models, like the Ocean 1 Vintage Red. The dial of the OVM is, not surprisingly, very well made. The markings are very sharp, the black of the dial is dense and matte and the printing of any text is very crisp. On the outer edge of the dial is an index of small lines in white for the individual minutes, with slightly bolder lines at an interval of 5. The primary index is applied with “Old Rhadium” lume, which has a pale peach color. There is large triangle and twelve, large circles for 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10 and 11 and rectangles for 3, 6 and 9, which comprise the typical Submariner layout.
There is a Steinhart logo on the upper half of the dial, a 1 in a circle, 660ft = 200m and automatic on the lower half of the dial. The 1 in the circle is the OVM’s way of add the tritium indicator to the dial, and I think this was a clever way to do it. I doubt that legally they could have used the T in a circle, but the 1 in a circle looks very similar and refers back to the “Ocean 1” line, which the OVM is part of. The 660ft = 200m is what the dial of the 5517 read…but here’s the thing, the OVM is a 300m watch, as it clearly says on the back of the case. I think this is sort of silly thing for them to have done. Of all the details to be 100% loyal to, I don’t think this was the one to go for. I mean, there could be an option for the watch with an acrylic dome and no bracelet, which would be more impactful visual details, though the watch is still great with a sapphire and a bracelet. That being said, it doesn’t affect anything and no one will ever notice.
The peach color of the lume really makes the marking jump off of the dial and have outstanding readability. The lume itself does not glow peach, but rather a pale green, and while of decent strength, is not best lume I’ve seen by any stretch. In fact, I find the peach color does a better job of being almost a day-glo color than normal lume green. The “Old Rhadium” lume, which we also saw on the C. Ward C8 pilot, is meant to add a false patina to the watch. If you look at pictures of 5517s you’ll see that the lume on them has aged to be this same color. While I think the idea of a false patina is kind of ridiculous, the lume adds an interesting dimension to the look of the watch, as it is a warm color. This really opens up strap options, as you’ll see later on in the post. The hands of the watch are sword style and also filled with this lume. The fat hour hand is a great visual detail to this watch that is not only authentic; it adds that military look that separates the Mil-Sub from the civilian models.
The OVM comes standard with an Oyster style brushed steel bracelet. I have to say; I am surprised by how much I like it. First off, it’s simply well made, well finished and comfortable. The bracelet arrives with all links intact, making it very large out of the box. Steinhart chose a bracelet with screw bars holding together several of the links, making adjusting the bracelet very easy. I think this is a great feature, especially on a watch in this price range, as it allows easy changing by someone without a set of watch tools or local jeweler. The brushed top surface matches seamlessly with the case, and gives the watch a dressy and masculine appearance. At first I thought, this will be a great option for occasions where I want a more refined look for the watch, like if I were wearing a suit for example. But I’ve found myself wearing it with the bracelet on a much more regular basis than that. It’s just easy to wear and looks great… I still can’t believe this came with a $400 dollar watch.
That all being said, the right look for a Mil-Sub is on a NATO strap. So, I went out (by which I mean browsed the internet) and bought 3 straps that I have been regularly rotating on the watch. The great things about NATOs is that they are both cheap and interchangeable, and with a watch like this, you are going to find you want to wear it all the time, as such, having different color combinations to use with it make endlessly more versatile. The first NATO I got for it was a brown/khaki Maratac. The brown has a distinct “camo” aesthetic that clearly suits the styling of the watch and matches well with the warmth of the “Old Rhadium” lume. The next one I bought was a vintage leather NATO from panatime. They call it vintage, because it has a surface finish that has a somewhat random texture. Once again, it doesn’t actually look old or have an authentic patina. What it does have is a beautiful rich leather color with a strong orange undertone. The leather itself is also very soft and high quality. On the OVM the leather adds a more stylized and fashionable aesthetic to the watch. It plays well off of the lume. This option looks killer with blue jeans and brown work boots. The third NATO I picked up was a blue-steel grey model from Strapcode. I got this one simply because of this photo of an actual 5517 on a similarly colored strap, which makes me drool. The blue in the grey makes the lume jump out. This is just beautiful color combination that can be worn with anything.
The Steinhart Ocean Vintage Military is a truly stupendous watch that is worth every cent you pay for it, and probably a few more too. It looks great, it wears great, it is built to last out of high quality components and it is a remarkable bargain. Seriously, there is nothing else out there for $400 dollars that can compete with this, making this probably the best value in a watch we’ve come across. Steinhart really is an anomaly and I recommend taking advantage of their great prices…you never know when things might change. If you like the aesthetic of the 5517 Mil-Sub and don’t have spare 100k to drop on an original, then you will be happy with this purchase. There are only two problems with it… I never seem to want to take it off, and now that I know how great Steinharts are I want to get another, and that Ocean Vintage GMT is starting to look mighty tempting.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the gallery!
by Zach Weiss